Saturday, Feb. 04, 2023|
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I was writing a cheerful holiday column, when Mauna Loa erupted. Auwe! But watchu gonna do?
No matter who you are, the correct answer is: Drop everything. Then, get out of the way. Once safety is ensured, only then can we think about where to go for the best seats to enjoy Pele’s magnificent performance.
In 1959, I remember coming home from school and my parents packing the car. “Volcano erupted.” they said, “We driving up. Put on long pants, grab a sweater and let’s go.”
I happily dropped books, changed clothes and off we went. When we got to the crater, we were heartily greeted with a steady blast of heat. When the wind blew, we were gifted with sprays of warm cinders. Both were welcoming signs of a powerful presence.
Today, parents take their kids to Disneyland for cheap thrills but in our time, they took us to watch real and towering fountains of lava spewing hundreds of feet in the air. Who needs Magic Mountain when you got Kilauea ‘Iki?
Back then, Kilauea was nicknamed “The Friendly Volcano.” This is how she was advertised by the tourist industry in the 1950s and 60s in an attempt to lure visitors to our island, far from the white sandy shores of Waikiki.
Only the intrepid came.
Kilauea appeared non-threatening because much of the action took place in deep pits, allowing us to tiptoe up to the edge and peek inside. But as if to laugh and say, “Friendly? You talking about me?” Pele gave a good hard slap on the head, bringing us to our senses with Kapoho in 1960, wiping out small towns and farms, along with the popular swimming holes Queen’s Bath and Warm Springs.
Other eruptions followed and in 1990, she burst out again with glee, overrunning the new subdivision of Royal Gardens and old Hawaiian communities in Kalapana, including Kaimu, the famous black sand beach.
For Hiloans, Kalapana was where we went for a day trip to the ocean. Not too close but not too far. Heading toward Volcano, we turned left at Ola‘a and drove through fields of wild bamboo orchids, pausing in Pahoa town to buy pastry before arriving at Kaimu. Whenever I see old postcards of this famous curving stretch of black sand lined with lofty coconut trees, I grab them. One of the treasured calendar posters of the dazzling beach came from my favorite Hilo supermarket with the caption: Thanks for the memories.
And of course, who can forget the 2018 devastation in the riff zone when lava obliterated recently-built houses in Leilani Estates and buried old family homes at Kapoho Bay.
In case anyone still thinks Hawai‘i is home to friendly volcanoes, they’re suffering from too much Disneyland. Time for another slap.
It arrived last week with the eruption of Mauna Loa. Hoards of locals and visitors are now driving the Saddle Road to catch a glimpse of an active volcano. Chicken skin, yeh? Judging from the many postings on social media, those smart phones are oh-so-handy. Not an hour goes by when another stunning pic arrives in my in-box. Mahalo!
Television news, local and national, are filled with these images, as anchors struggle to find adequate phrases to describe our earth-searing event.
One of the words we keep hearing is “awesome” which I personally dislike because of its current casual and inappropriate overuse. No, those cookies are not “awesome.” A movie star’s outfit, also not “awesome.” An Olympic medal? Still not “awesome.”
But red-hot lava fountains and flows from Mauna Loa? Yes.
Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at email@example.com. Her column is published the first Monday of each month.
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